Apple’s iPhones and iPads could someday self-charge with the use of integrated solar cells. The company has filed a patent application titled “Integrated touch sensor and solar assembly,” which envisions devices that would simultaneously capture and convert light into energy—as well as detect touch—with solar cells built directly into the smartphone’s screen.

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The U.S. Patent and Trademark office granted Apple the patent for solar-powered handheld devices. According to the patent application, this technology would be used for portable devices such as media players and smartphones.

In the patent application, Apple said integrated touch sensor and solar panel configurations may also be used for optical sensing. The solar panel may operate in a solar power and optical sensing mode but when detecting an approaching object, such as a finger, the solar panel may switch to a capacitive sensing mode.

Although the patent was made public just a few days ago, Apple has been working on this technology for over four years. However, solar technology has proven to have high production costs, so it may be some time before owners of iPads and iPhones can charge their devices using solar energy.


Second Image from U.S. Patent and Trademark Office